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Iowa Schoolgirl Founds Organization to Help Kids Make a Difference


Kids have some good ideas about how to make a difference in the world, but often, they lack the inspiration or the guidance to make their ideas a reality. One creative and motivated teenager is providing that inspiration and guidance to hundreds of kids so they can make a difference.

When Hurricane Katrina devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005, Iowa schoolgirl Talia Leman was 10. But she collected $10 million for relief efforts by getting youngsters all around the country to join a fund-raising Halloween campaign. She called it ", and it has been raising funds for a wide range of projects.

"We've joined schools from eight states to fund water pumps in Africa that provide safe, clean water to 5,000 villagers," she says.

At Green Valley Elementary School in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania, sixth-graders sell bottles of water to raise money for the RandomKid Water Project.

"We have a local company that donates the water for only 40 cents [a bottle]," he says, "but we sell it for more so we make a profit."

Adam Bowers says about 80 of his classmates are coming up with other ideas to raise money for the project.

"We have different groups," he says. "One of them is advertising. Recently, we had someone get a billboard for us. So that's to get our name out. We pretty much tell everyone around us about this project."

Several dozen RandomKid members from around the world formed their own youth United Nations, called For Each Other.

"We talk to each other and learn about each other's cultures," she says. "In 2006, we raised $6,000 to fight AIDS in Africa. And in 2007, we raised $15,000 that was matched by an Asian bank to build a school in Cambodia."

Allison Sant, 15, who represents the state of Ohio, was one of five Random Kids who went to Cambodia to celebrate the opening of this school.

"There are five classrooms," she explains. "They are big classrooms, and they have rows and rows of desks. In three years, there will be 500 students. There are currently 151. We raised enough money to have Internet, solar panels and computers installed. And we were able to hire a computer teacher and an English teacher for the school."

She says visiting the school was a life-changing experience.

"I will never, ever be able to forget the experience and how much it impacted my life," she says. "What impacted me the most was seeing this school and how excited the kids were just to be able to go to school and say 'I love you' to us and give us hugs. [It was exciting] for us to be able to play Duck, Duck, Goose with them and see how excited they were just to learn, or to be able to have their school supplies. Their faces are like [engraved] in my mind."

One of RandomKid's latest efforts will help children walk. Participants in the Great Strides project are raising money to provide leg braces to correct a condition known as club foot.

"We're launching it in three schools - two in Iowa and one in New Jersey," she says. "The kids in the school will be carrying pedometers with the goal of walking a marathon [26.2 miles] before the end of the school year. They will get sponsors for every mile they walk. So every $260 that they raise will go toward making it possible for another child [who has the condition club foot] to walk. So this project will help kids in the United States and also in 30 countries. And RandomKid sends the pedometers for free."

RandomKid founder Talia Leman says it's encouraging to see that young people are willing and able to help when they get the chance. Over the last three years, about 10,000 kids have stepped up to help. About 1,100 are currently involved in the group's ongoing projects.

Last year, the Build-a-Bear Workshop Company named Leman a Huggable Hero. She says it's an honor for her group to be recognized and - perhaps more significantly - to get a cash award to help fund more RandomKid projects. Yet, she says, nothing is more rewarding than just being able to bring positive changes into someone else's life.

Video: RandomKid Opens School in Cambodia

Courtesy of RandomKid

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